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CHAPTER 9 – THE TAKING OF HUMAN LIFE
General Overview
In this chapter some of the basic arguments for and against the taking of human life in various
contexts (suicide, defense of the innocent, war, terrorism, capital punishment, etc.) are laid out
and examined. The so-called “seamless garment” position appears consistent since the position
here is an opposition to the taking of human life across the board and in every context. For some
this is too “absolutist” and so each situation where life is at stake needs to be carefully examined
and to see where exceptions may be justified.
Class Suggestions
There are a large number of complex topics dealt with in this chapter so some instructors may
wish to introduce all but concentrate on one. Some instructors may have already examined
capital punishment in detail from a previous chapter. One may also see which topic is most
current and “newsworthy” to peak student interests. After September 11th, terrorism has been of
especial interest to instructors and students and can open up perspectives for students that are
often not available to them. Debates or group projects on any of these issues can also be
supplemented by showing a video or getting students to examine the wealth of material available
on all these issues in their college library, on the internet, etc.
The case material now available at the end of each chapter should also be integrated if possible.
The case approach has some real advantages for philosophy instructors, since theoretical
abstractions can be explored in the grain and detail of specific situations. Also, the author has
laid out his own “humanitarian ethics” position at the end of each chapter. Instructors may wish
to explore these ideas with students or use them as a counterfoil, but be aware that some students
may simply lift arguments from this section and repeat them back at you as the “answer.”
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